Improvisation forms the core of most of my creative activity, whether that's in the groups I work with regularly or in ad-hoc situations with brand new players. I have spent many years dedicated to the possibilities of open, spontaneous composition with a host of musicians from all walks of life, or in a completely solo setting; the depth of challenge in this form of music making is where I find myself most connected to my creative self and to a greater understanding of humanity. Gosh, that's all a bit purple, but it's how I feel so there you go...
Anyway, here are some examples of settings in which I've found myself, both recurring and spontaneous.
This trio with livecoding super-brain Shelly Knotts on laptop and my Quintet/Archipelago bandmate Faye MacCalman on reeds is a favourite. I describe this music as 'David Lynch Darkjazz'. This EP was recorded pretty spontaneously and forgotten about for a while, then released in 2020. The great Corey Mwamba liked it enough to play some on his BBC3 programme 'Freeness', so you know it's pretty good...
DUO WITH CHRIS BISCOE
When the trio Cartoon toured Italy in 2018 we had a small disaster; Roger Turner, our drummer, was taken ill very suddenly and couldn't make the flight. The first night of the tour wound up being the only time Chris and I have improvised as a duo, before Roger joined us the next night in Tarzo. Luckily it got recorded, so I was able to share it in 2020 as a document of this unique moment. The title 'Unforseen' wound up being a very prescient one for the era.
HERE'S A SELECTION OF VIDEOS FROM DIFFERENT PERFORMANCES
A TRIO WITH JOE MCPHEE AND PAUL HESSION
DUO WITH TOM WARD
BRÅK, LONDON 2018
NOAH'S ARK COLLECTIVE
SESSIONS OF MARCH, MANCHESTER 2016
SOLO FOR SUMMER STUDIOS
THE SAGE GATESHEAD 2019
This rioutous double-drumkit unit is lead by singer Frankee O'Keefe and guitarist Jordie Cooke. It has one foot in festival rave-out culture and one foot in psychedelic punk-jazz, and both feet wear enormous boots made of uranium. The only band I've ever been in that has played a show in a wrestling ring.
The brainchild of Newcastle polymath experimentalist Phil Begg (aka Hapsburg Braganza), this group is a mostly studio-based project featuring nearly everybody who's ever been a part of the North East underground, including alt-folk hero Richard Dawson, not to mention all three members of Archipelago. Both albums are patchwork collages of psych, jazz, found sound, electroacoustic textures and soundtrack music.